Facilities can follow roadmap for greater hospital environmental sustainability
Because its decisions affect nearly every area of operation, supply chain has major potential for greening healthcare. But getting a sustainability plan in place can be challenging. That’s why industry experts developed the Sustainability Roadmap for Hospitals.
The Sustainability Roadmap is a national clearinghouse of comprehensive information about healthcare sustainability geared specifically to healthcare professionals and backed by industry and community leaders. Designed to help healthcare organizations recognize and act on the need to promote sustainability in their practices, the roadmap is a free online repository of resources, tools and information, and can be a great platform for sustainability efforts in all healthcare settings.
Framing the Issue
With such a significant carbon footprint, the healthcare industry presents many opportunities to green the system and make a real impact on the health and environment of local communities. Many supply chain professionals balk at making policy and product changes in the face of budget constraints, but sustainability efforts actually can make for a healthier bottom line.
“Many of the opportunities to go green in the supply chain are similar to what you’ll find in the home. These include employing reusable bags and other products, sourcing locally to reduce transportation, choosing products with minimal packaging, and using more natural cleaning supplies and chemicals.” — Amanda Llewellyn, vice president of global supply chain for Dimension Health System
Hospitals consume 2.5 times the energy of other commercial buildings and spend more than $8.7 billion annually, according to the EPA Energy Star program. The average hospital provider spends more than $72 million a year (one-third of its annual operating budget) on supply chain functions alone. Ultimately, the majority of materials consumed in healthcare settings becomes waste, the disposal of which costs healthcare consumers $10 billion annually. Strategic source reduction and waste management afford supply chain professionals the ability to realize cost reductions as high as 40 to 70 percent.
Using the Sustainability Roadmap
Aware that sustainability can be a daunting cause to champion, the American Society for Healthcare Engineering partnered with the Association for the Healthcare Environment and the Association for Healthcare Resource & Materials Management (AHRMM) of the American Hospital Association to develop the Sustainability Roadmap for Hospitals as a free, open-source online tool to help hospitals reduce costs and achieve environmental goals at the same time.
The website is organized so users can find tools, case studies and evidence-based information related to their specialties, including facilities, energy, water, waste, supply chain and chemicals. Information provided by the roadmap is product-neutral so users have access to reliable, unbiased resources. It includes information on incentives and policy considerations, and provides tips for leading a sustainability initiative replete with checklists and self-assessments that help hospitals get started or take next steps. The roadmap also provides the opportunity to participate in discussions on sustainability topics and report successes and experiences to others working toward greener healthcare settings.
Hospitals consume 2.5 times the energy of other commercial buildings and spend more than $8.7 billion annually.
“The roadmap is a starting place and a tool,” says Amanda Llewellyn, vice president of Global Supply Chain for Dimension Health System and chair of the Roadmap’s Sustainability Supply Chain Committee. Opportunities abound to make a positive impact—well beyond the blue recycling bin in the corner of the room, Llewellyn says. Supply chain professionals, in particular, have a unique opportunity on the sustainability front because they affect most purchasing decisions in the hospital setting.
How to Get Your Bottom Line in the Green
Many healthcare professionals are put off by sustainability efforts before they even begin because they believe it’s too expensive and difficult to make those kinds of policy, procedure and purchasing changes. In reality, many green opportunities are low- to no-cost in nature and can reap immediate benefits, says Josh Miller, senior consultant at Mazzetti, the environmental consulting firm working with associations on the roadmap.
To get decision-makers on board with a new sustainability initiative, it’s important to focus on the big picture—meaning the triple bottom line of economic, social and environmental costs. Also, analyze a product’s total cost of ownership rather than just purchase cost when making a decision about whether to switch to a more sustainable product or service, recommends Kimberly Smith, Mazzetti project coordinator.
The opportunities to make strides toward sustainability are plentiful, from minor changes like reprocessing single devices to major overhauls such as implementing more environmentally friendly building materials.
“Many of the opportunities to go green in the supply chain are similar to what you’ll find in the home,” Llewellyn says. These include employing reusable bags and other products, sourcing locally to reduce transportation, choosing products with minimal packaging, and using more natural cleaning supplies and chemicals. Other areas that can make an environmental impact include waste management, fluid management in operating rooms, and bed-changing and linen policies in patient rooms.
It’s also important to consider the use of post-consumer products that go beyond the operating room, such as recycled paper for mailings and health fair marketing materials. Many healthcare organizations also are involving the IT department in their efforts and going paperless where possible. This not only reduces paper waste, but also saves money.
“Everyone these days is under economic pressures, and a lot of these measures are related to saving money,” Llewellyn says. “Reduce waste and you will automatically begin saving money. You can save 30 to 60 percent on reusable devices. Align sustainability efforts with your core mission while doing something great for the environment.”
“HealthTrust supports the efforts of the American Hospital Association and its sub-organizations in the promotion of sustainable practices in the healthcare industry,” says J. Michael Jones, FACHE, former director of Clinical Education and Sustainability at HealthTrust. Jones previously served as a GPO industry representative to the AHRMM Sustainability Task Force and worked with the team from Mazzetti and AHRMM on the development of some of the roadmap resources. HealthTrust encourages its members to utilize the information and tools available from the roadmap as part of their overall sustainability program implementation.
For more information on the roadmap, visit www.sustainabilityroadmap.org.Share Email Green Initiatives